Some consider God primarily as Judge whose chief concern is his law. In order for this “legal” God to be gracious towards us he must first punish his own Son in our place. He then demands us to meet all his legal conditions for true acceptance. Even though I try to meet his demands I cannot really be sure he accepts me. I have to constantly self-examine. Do I have enough faith? Is it “saving” faith? Did I repent correctly? Is God o.k. with my imperfect obedience? If I were to go this way the result would be lack assurance.
Looking through the lens of Christ, we see that God’s ways with us are primarily relational rather than merely legal. For through Jesus, we learn that God is Father and that his purpose is to bring us into family relationship. He wants us to find our true being-in-communion as sons and daughters in union with his unique Son by the Spirit.
Allowing the legal to eclipse this relational vision results in a distorted way of responding to God. We are workers trying hard to satisfy God’s demands rather than dearly loved sons and daughters. We are driven by guilt rather than drawn by grace. We endure condemnation and rarely enjoy communion.
In Jesus’ parable of the lost son, the father wanted his son home before the prodigal turned back. And he did not wish for his son to relate in terms of work as a mere servant. He wanted to welcome him back into the family with a warm embrace and joyful celebration. So our Father in Jesus longs eagerly for us all to return home and when we do there is great rejoicing in the Father’s heart and all heaven.